FutureAdvisor co-founder Bo Lu could have built his startup company in Silicon Valley, and he certainly felt the pressure to do just that after graduating from the prominent startup incubator Y Combinator in the fall of 2010.
In fact, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham advised Lu that he’d be much better off in the Valley if he wanted to achieve his entrepreneurial dreams.
But unlike some of his fellow classmates, Lu packed his bags and returned to the Seattle startup scene to build his new company. The reason? Quite simply, Lu — who previously worked as a program manager on the Windows Phone team at Microsoft — had what he called a “deep technical network” in Seattle.
“We’ve had amazing concentration. We have not been pulled into a bunch of … things which we would have easily been doing if we were down in the Valley,” said Lu, adding that the Seattle location has allowed them to focus almost exclusively on serving customers.
Being located in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t appear to have slowed the 28-year-old entrepreneur down. Or, for that matter, hurt his ability to raise capital. Today, the company is announcing funding from the likes of Sequoia Capital, Square Chief Operating Offer Keith Rabois and Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman.
The exact size of the funding round wasn’t disclosed, but Lu is hopeful that it will help position FutureAdvisor as the go-to source for online financial advice. In Lu’s view, that’s a market that is ripe for some disruption.
He says the 8-person company is “democratizing high-quality financial advice,” much in the same way that Intuit’s TurboTax changed the dynamics in online tax preparation.
A free service, FutureAdvisor offers personal recommendations to individuals so that they can reduce fees; select the right investments; diversify their portfolios and more. A gold account on FutureAdvisor costs $49 per year, while the platinum service (which includes face-to-face meetings with individual advisors) goes for $195. It does this without taking additional commissions or fees.
“The premise for our website is a belief that investing doesn’t have to be as hard as it looks, and that by encoding well known index investing best practices in software — low fee passive funds, tax efficiency, etc. — we can change the economic model away from having to have a human being giving advice to having software give advice in most cases,” Lu tells GeekWire. “Advisors will still exist and bring value to folks with millions of dollars in assets, but with us for the first time everyone else will get access to high quality and unbiased advice.”
In addition to Lu, the FutureAdvisor team includes PhD candidates in mathematics at the University of Washington as well as co-founder and former Microsoft engineer Jon Xu.